Wet plate photography is something more than just an escape.

July 13, 2015  •  1 Comment

Holga and river in morning One fascinating aspect at the beginning of Maly Dunaj project was an impression, that there could be a peaceful coexistence of modern civilisation and nature. Maly Dunaj river is floating from Bratislava, the Slovakia capital city, through one of the most populated part of the country. And even here you can find places filled with the beauty of the pure nature, which are maybe abandoned and unattended, but they do exist. But when you are working around the river for some time, you will soon discover, that this kind of equilibrium is just a fiction. For example, all trees on these pictures will be cut in the next moths and country will be floated because of building of a new small power plant. 

River and plate after fixing I'm not an environmental activist, I'm a photographer. And maybe, in some way, as a photographer, I'm also just exploiting the country. In my mind is not a non-selfish making of documents of the vanishing nature. Much more than about reality I care about composition, building of the picture. I see not a river and trees, I see lines, shapes, light, texture. These things, this never ending, obsessive ambition to catch running, changing, liquid light, to master the light, to bond it into a definite form of the final plate. 

Sequence in wash The Holga panoramic camera brings into my work sequences. A picture build from small fragments, like a movie is build from frames. With content overlaps, exposure and light changes. It is not a pure photography and it is not a movie.  You can see all fragments together as one picture, or you can dive into individual plates and read them as a story, jumping from one onto another. 

Varnished plates I'm afraid that a lot of outsiders tend to see wet plate photography just as an escape from the complexity of the modern (or postmodern, if you would prefer) world. Just escape, as reading of Jane Austin books or dreaming about the world, where days were long and slow. Maybe this "just an escape" point of view is a reason, why is the wet plate photography out of the scope of interest of contemporary art curators.

Scanning is a tricky business I believe, that wet plates popularity is based on something more interesting. Photography is an important medium, because it teach us, how to see the world around us. Our anticipation of the world is based on photographies of the world, not vice versa. And some people have very strong feeling that the definition of the world created with digital cameras is deceiving. That is why people try to play with cheap plastic cameras in Lomography movement, that is why people love Instagram filters. Anything, that disrupt inhuman perfection of digital cameras. Contemporary wet plate photography is a part of the effort to return this medium, which was stolen by machines, back into human hands.

 

Final plate of Broken Tree, 18x24 cm tintype

 

Final sequence River With A Tree Trunk Panorama

 

 

 

 

 


Comments

Eric(non-registered)
Very nice thoughts on the wet plate process. I think at the heart of wet plate is the love of crafting an image entirely by hand. It is a slow and tedious process, and I think the popularity of wet plate among the analog photography community shows that we value such things.
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